05/11/2012 05:15 pm ET Updated Jul 10, 2012

The Gay Marriage Debate Misses the Point Entirely

This week President Obama became the first president in U.S. history to come out in favor of gay marriage. Obviously, Mitt Romney is against such a thing. The voters of North Carolina and a whole lot of other states have legislated against it to the extent of passing amendments to their state constitutions to that effect.

What the President's pronouncement does is set the stage to further ramp-up the volume in the Kulturkampf that will pass for this year's presidential election. The delineations between "red" and "blue" states are essentially those between states whose populations define themselves as religious or secular with a preponderance of religious people identifying with the Republican party and secular folks with the Democrats. There are independent and swing voters in both categories and people who straddle the fence.

Social conservatives say that "marriage" is only between a man and a woman, primarily citing religious imperatives and directives to that effect. Liberals talk about equal rights for all Americans and no discrimination based on sexual preferences. Both groups want legislation to enforce their particular view of this domestic arrangement. That's where both sides have it wrong.

The one question not asked in this debate is "Why is the government in the marriage business at all?" Marriage and other intimate relationships are very much at the core of one's personal life, which ought not be anyone's business. Why is the government determining the status of marriage of any kind and why do married people receive preferences or differentiations in their tax status?

Government should not be in people's bedrooms. The best way to handle the issue is to get government out of the marriage business entirely. Let couples be joined either religiously or with any kind of ceremony they want (or not) and/or with legal contracts drawn by lawyers stating their mutual and reciprocal responsibilities without the government being the certifier or arbiter of peoples' status as a couple. Why do we need a "government stamp" on these personal decisions? And if people decide to split-up, let the courts just handle property settlements as civil suits. The government should not be granting divorces either. A waste of government time, personnel and money.

To make this entirely fair, there ought to be no discriminatory laws or preferences for singles or couples, particularly in taxation. Everyone should pay the same rate. Folks should be able to designate (especially for medical emergencies and the like) who their significant other is, likewise for inheritance issues. Tax deductions for dependents (particularly children) should not be contingent on marital status, but on dependent status which makes things fair for single parents.

Because we have separation of Church and State, as enshrined in the Constitution, the logical resolution to this issue is for government to shutter the marriage bureaus entirely and leave these things to peoples' consciences and preferences.

The gay marriage debate is a sideshow to the more important challenges facing Americans during this critical election year -- it enables both candidates to effusively pander to their core constituencies on an issue that is decided on the state, not federal level anyway. Let's get government, at every level out of the bedroom and focused instead on the basic, essential services which really are its mandate.